Q&A with Dave Jaworsky, Mayor, City of Waterloo
WATCH How do the University of Waterloo and the David Johnston Research + Technology Park play a pivotal role in Waterloo’s strategic vision?
DJ The City of Waterloo’s strategic vision is built around three pillars: discovery, entrepreneurship and diversity, and the University of Waterloo and the R+T Park play critical roles in enabling all three, making both entities a key part of the vision. The University of Waterloo with its world-leading reputation for research sits at the heart of discovery. It is the place where game-changing ideas are innovated, tested and proven. The R+T Park is home to many of the city’s technology firms and the Accelerator Centre, an award-winning incubator where entrepreneurs take discoveries and bring them to life as new businesses. And both University of Waterloo and the Accelerator Centre are rich with diversity across the entire spectrum from gender, to culture, to ethnicity and beyond. Even the R+T Park itself is on the leading edge of innovation. We are soon to break ground on evolv1, a new premiere office space within the park, destined to be one of the most energy efficient buildings in Canada. The project, a collaboration between the Cora Group, Sustainable Waterloo Region, the R+T Park, with funding from the City of Waterloo, will be so green it will actually produce its own energy. Our funding will be on the social side, and provide crucial sustainable best practices support for tenants and their employees working in building.
WATCH You have a technology background yourself. How does that experience help you in your role as Mayor of Waterloo?
DJ My deep connection to the technology community gives me a really strong advantage in my role. I was a University of Waterloo co-op student. I worked at Blackberry, and was a Board Member of Communitech. My involvement with Communitech, with the R+T Park and with the Accelerator Centre continues to provide me with a great exposure to our tech community, and is constantly showcasing ways we can use technology to our advantage in building the city’s reputation here in Canada and around the world.
WATCH You are an active voice in the GoNorthCanada campaign to attract US-based technology companies and talent to the region. When you are talking to folks in Silicon Valley, what benefits of Waterloo Region do you highlight?
DJ We know that global technology countries gravitate to talent. As Canada’s education city, we graduate 10,000 or more PhDs, masters students and undergrads annually. For a city of just 130,000 people that is punching way above our weight. For businesses in search of high calibre talent, locating here is like locating next to a goldmine. The GoNorthCampaign is focused on giving global companies encouragement and incentive to establish a foothold in this Region, and on the repatriation of Canadian talent back to the area. There are dozens of compelling reasons for them to come. First, we offer a nice, safe, welcoming community. Second, we have that ready-made supply of talent. Third, there is a distinct financial advantage to locating in Canada. Finally our cost of living and quality of life is exceptional. There is research that shows the take home salary here in Waterloo Region is roughly the same as in Silicon Valley when you factor in the comparative cost of living.
WATCH We’re nearing the end of the LRT project, next up two-way all-day GO? What obstacles do we still need to overcome and how will this linkage (when it happens) change and enhance our community?
DJ There is now massive emphasis on transportation in Waterloo Region and in Ontario. All levels of government are in accord on this. The grand plan is to provide high speed rail access, which will connect downtown Toronto, to Pearson Airport, through to Waterloo Region. But before that, we’ll be working on improving two-way GO Train access along the GTA-Waterloo Region corridor. This is not your typical commuter access scenario. Our local economy has as many people coming from the GTA to work in Waterloo each day as we have people going the other way. So two-way GO Access is key. Locally, we have the Light Rail Transit system that will begin operation in 2018 with two stops at University of Waterloo and the R+T Park, and we have completely redesigned Grand River Transit service on an East/West grid to better serve the universities. We are also investing in non-traditional transportation as well. We are now paving all of our multi-use trails, so people can easily run, walk, and bike around the city. All of this connectivity allows us to keep our compact urban form, and with University of Waterloo and Wilfred Laurier University basically at the core, the daily commute is very ‘bikeable.’
WATCH You talk about how prosperity is often silently invested back into our community. How does Waterloo manage to retain its unique humble persona?
DJ Our 200 years of Mennonite heritage continues to serve us well. In the words of our Governor General David Johnston, we are a community of barn raisers, with a strong spirit of volunteerism, and with that, come rewards. We see it in the mentorship at the Accelerator Centre, in the way companies in our technology community - from large to startup - help each other and celebrate each other’s successes. There is a strong sense of pride in what we have been able to accomplish together. This is why the City of Waterloo made a four year investment in the Accelerator Centre. We want to help the young companies that come through that program grow and succeed, because they will become employers and part of our regional growth success story. That is why we have also invested in Communitech’s Data Hub, which is located in Uptown Waterloo, to support data-intensive companies working in the fields of open data, high-performance computing, cyber security and smart cities technology. Every day this community is making strides and quietly creating success stories - some of which people never hear about.